Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mairzy Doats and Regrets

I have no idea why or how, but a song my grandmother used to sing popped into my head. I started singing it out loud as I walked down the stairs in my office building (don't worry - no one else was there).

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?

Now, if your elderly relatives didn't sing this ditty to you as a child, you're probably wondering, "What the . . . ?"

It's what they call a "novelty song," and it's from the World War II era. It became popular on the radio, and the G.I.s fighting over in Europe liked it too. (Rumor has it they used the nonsensical lyrics for passwords.)

While she could be quite stern, my grandmother had a playful side - from convincing me that she could change red lights to green with her mind, to honking at cows (she told me they understood that to be a human "hello") - and she sang this song enough that it's taken up residence in my memory, popping out from time to time.

Walking through the near-empty building, I started humming it. It had been a while, so it took a second to get the whole verse. But when I did, two very different senses hit me, of goofy pride that I'd remembered the lyrics, and bittersweet nostaglia.

I still miss my grandmother, gone more than five years now. I regret the time lost that I could have spent with her, thanks to my family's absence from Maine for 15 years. We got along famously when I was small, but we never got to know each other as fully-formed adults. I think she would have liked me as an adult.

Lost in these thoughts, another emotion crept in:


I felt a slight pang of remorse, knowing that I was depriving my parents of grandchildren. Of that relationship my grandmother had with me.

And maybe, also, a little sad that I will never have a grandchild, no one with whom to share goofy songs, dubious psychic powers, and secrets that only grandparents and grandchildren share, things that too cool for Mom and Dad to know about.

I still feel it as I write; there is no wrap-up paragraph to explain how I dealt with these emotions. I don't know if there really ever will be. That slight tug at my soul, and at my decision to not have children, might remain forever.


Oh, and in case you have no clue to what the song's about, sing it out loud.

No? Okay, sing this out loud: Mares eat oats and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. . .

Pretty silly, isn't it? But it makes me smile. Perhaps it made you smile, too. Teach it to your kids - they'll probably love it.